Rolando McClain, who won the BCS National Championship with Alabama,...

Rolando McClain, who won the BCS National Championship with Alabama, was drafted No. 8 by the Oakland Raiders. (Jan. 7, 2010) Credit: AP

In this draft, it might not be as much a matter of "who" as it is "when" for the Giants.

The team's gaze seems to be firmly fixed on middle linebacker Rolando McClain, an NFL-ready product who was a three-year starter at Alabama and won a national championship along with the Butkus Award as the top college linebacker in the country last season. The problem is that he might not be available when the Giants are on the clock with the 15th pick in tonight's draft. So the question floating around the Big Blue war room this evening will be just how long the Giants are willing to wait and if they will make a move a few rungs ahead to grab him.

"A draft unfolds one pick at a time," general manager Jerry Reese said. "The dynamics of the draft changes with every pick. All of a sudden you have a guy up there that you love and it gets close to you and you have to think about, 'Well, maybe we should move up and take this guy.' And then it could be a situation where you don't have anybody who you love, you want to get out of your spot, you want to move back."

What will the Giants try to do?

"We are open to whatever," Reese said. "We keep all of our options open. We just try not to panic in there and keep a level head and pick good players."

In recent years that's been a little easier to do. The Giants, who preach a combination of need and value when drafting first-round players, have been lucky to have those two qualities converge in each of the last two drafts. In 2008 they needed a safety and waited patiently at the end of the first round for Kenny Phillips, the player they had been eyeballing, to drop into their lap. Last year, in the wake of Plaxico Burress, the Giants were looking for a big-time receiver. They had a few in mind but were very pleased to see Hakeem Nicks still available when they picked at 29. Although Phillips' status is uncertain because of serious knee surgery last fall, the timing on both picks worked out well for the Giants.

Can they do it three times in a row? Most draft analysts doubt it and see McClain going earlier than the Giants' assigned slot. They might have to part with a later-round pick and jump the line by four or five spots to get him. That's assuming there are teams up there willing to deal. The Broncos, with the 11th overall pick, seem the most likely partner.

Although he is their main target according to sources, the Giants are not going into the draft with a "McClain or Bust" banner hanging in their complex. There are other options. The Giants are said to be among the large number of teams enamored by Clemson running back C.J. Spiller and if he falls out of the top 10 they could make a move for him. If McClain or Spiller is unavailable, the Giants could very well trade back deeper into the first round and pick up another player at a different position - an offensive or defensive lineman perhaps - and focus on filling their middle linebacker hole with a second-round pick. Sean Lee of Penn State would be an appealing alternative in lieu of McClain and probably will be available in the second round.

But that won't happen until thanks to the NFL's new prime-time drag-out of the draft. When the Giants go to sleep Thursday night, they likely will have either the rights to McClain or be wondering what they could have done differently to get him.

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